Read an Excerpt
The Mystery at the Alamo
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 1997 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
A Visit to Texas
We're here," Grandfather Alden said to his four grandchildren. "We're at the Alamo!"
The Boxcar Children gazed up at the old stone fort. Grandfather had told them this was one of the most famous places in all of Texas.
"And there's my friend Lew Fambles!" Grandfather smiled and headed toward the man standing outside the doors of the Alamo.
"Hello, there, Lew," Grandfather said. "It's good to see you. These are my grandchildren, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden."
"Welcome to Texas," Mr. Fambles said. "All you need now are some cowboy boots and a hat!"
"I'd love to have a cowboy hat!" Benny, the youngest grandchild, said. "And a horse to go with it."
"I don't think we can fit a horse on the plane," Henry, his older brother, replied. "But you can probably buy a hat."
"I want a pair of cowboy boots," Jessie said.
"Me, too," Violet added.
"We'll go shopping later," Grandfather said. "I'm sure a cowboy hat and cowboy boots will be easy to find in Texas."
"That won't be a problem at all," Mr. Fambles said.
"We're ready for our tour of the Alamo," Grandfather said, smiling at his friend.
"I'm sorry, James," Mr. Fambles said. "I'm not going to be able to give you a tour right now. There's a movie being filmed here about the history of the Alamo. They're going to use it to teach school-children about Texas history. We're assisting the director as much as possible. I just got a list of things they need right away. Do you think you could find something else to do today?"
"Of course," Mr. Alden said. "There are plenty of other things to see and do here."
"Where are they filming the movie?" Jessie asked. She loved movies.
"Over there in Alamo Square," Mr. Fambles said, pointing to the crowd.
"Do you think they'd mind if we watched them?" Henry asked.
"No, not at all," Mr. Fambles said. "I watched them for a while during lunch the other day. It's really interesting to see how a movie is made."
"Well," Mr. Alden said. "I guess the movie set will be our first stop."
The children and their grandfather followed the swarm of people walking into Alamo Square. A long line of ropes separated the crowd from the movie set. Grandfather and the children moved near the movie company's props, boxes, and camera equipment.
"I can't see," Benny said.
"You can stand in front of me," Jessie said. "I've got a spot right near the set."
The movie crew was busily setting up the cameras for the next scene. Crew members bustled about.
"This is so exciting," Violet said.
Henry smiled. "I've never seen a movie being made before."
Just then, a young woman with long blond hair ran over to them. She was holding a clipboard. "I'm Amy Welsh. I'm the director of this film," the woman said.
"I'm James Alden and these are my grandchildren," Grandfather said. "We're here in San Antonio for our spring vacation. Alamo Square is our first stop."
"Well, I'm glad you got a chance to visit the set," Amy said. "The movie we're filming is called The History of the Alamo. It's a documentary about the Alamo from the 1800's to the present."
"I didn't know they filmed movies in Texas," Henry said.
"Oh, yes," Amy said. "Lots of movies are filmed in Texas, almost any day of the year."
"I thought most movies were filmed in Hollywood," Violet said.
"Not anymore," Amy said with a smile. "And a lot of our people working on the set are from Texas."
"That's very interesting," said Grandfather Alden.
"I wanted to speak to you because I have an idea. How old are you children?" Amy asked.
"I'm Henry and I'm fourteen."
"I'm Jessie. I'm twelve years old. And I love movies."
"I'm Benny and I'm six."
"And how about you?" Amy asked, pointing to the pretty young girl wearing a violetcolored dress.
"I'm Violet and I'm ten," she said, blushing. Violet wanted to add that she loved movies, too, but she felt shy.
"That's fabulous," Amy said. "How would you all like to be extras in this movie? I'd need you to work three or four hours a day — from about eight o'clock in the morning until eleven or twelve. That is, if it's all right with your grandfather."
"Please, Grandfather?" begged Jessie. "Please? Let us be extras in the movie."
"Of course," Grandfather said. "I think it would be a great experience. But do you all want to work during your vacation?"
Violet nodded. "Yes, Grandfather. I think it would be fun."
Jessie twirled around in a circle. "If we're extras in a movie, that would make us movie stars!"
"Well," Henry said, "sort of."
"Do you get to eat in this movie?" asked Benny. Benny never missed an opportunity to ask about food.
"Benny," said Jessie, surprised he could find a way to work his favorite subject in no matter what they talked about.
"I just wanted to know! I still want to be in the movie even if we don't eat right away."
"If you'll be in my movie, I'll make sure you get plenty to eat. How's that?" Amy said, smiling.
"That sounds great," Benny said happily.
Grandfather Alden hugged each one of the children. "I'm going to leave you movie stars with Director Welsh."
"Please call me Amy. Everyone else does."
"Amy it is, then," Grandfather said. "I've got some work to do. I'll be back at lunch to pick you up," he said to the children. "Wait for me on that bench over there under that tree. Have fun."
"Thanks, Mr. Alden," Amy said. She gazed at the children. "Actually, I need five children for this movie."
"But there are only four of us," Benny said proudly. He was glad that he could count and read now. He remembered the first time Jessie and Violet tried to teach him to read. They had written see and me on two pieces of paper with the burned end of a stick. That was a long time ago when they had lived in the woods in the boxcar. They had been hiding from their grandfather because they thought he was a mean man. Now they lived in his beautiful house with him. But they'd loved the boxcar so much that their wonderful grandfather had it brought to his house and put it in their backyard.
"I really need another boy who's about your age, Henry," Amy said.
Henry looked around the square. He spotted a boy who looked to be around his age. "Amy, what about that boy over there? The one with the black hair and the striped shirt almost like mine. Maybe he'd like to be in a movie."
"Could you find out for me?" Amy asked. "In the meantime, I'll get your paperwork ready so you can start your movie careers."
"Sure," Jessie said.
The children hurried over to where the boy was standing.
"Hello," Henry said. "I'm Henry Alden, and these are my sisters, Jessie and Violet, and my brother, Benny. We're visiting San Antonio for the week. We're staying down the street at the Plaza Hotel."
"Hi, I'm Antonio Rivas. I live here in San Antonio."
"Your name's almost the same as the town you live in," Benny said.
"That's right," Antonio replied. "My parents named me after the town."
"We're going to be extras in this movie they're filming," Henry said. "Would you like to be an extra, too? They need one more teenager."
Benny added quickly, "They're going to buy our lunch every day."
Antonio smiled at Benny. "Sure. That sounds like fun."
"Great," Henry said. "Come with us and I'll introduce you to Amy Welsh, the director."
The children hurried across the square to find Amy.
She was sitting in a chair with the word DIRECTOR on the back.
"Amy! We found someone for you," Violet said, feeling less shy now.
"How marvelous!" Amy said, turning toward Antonio. "What is your name and how old are you?"
"I'm Antonio Rivas and I'm fourteen years old."
"Do you think you can work three or four hours a day?" Amy asked.
"Sure," Antonio said. "When can I start?"
"I want you all to fill out these forms and then we'll get going," Amy said. She passed out a pen and a set of papers to each one of them.
"I'm so excited," Jessie said as she helped Benny fill out his papers. "We're all going to be movie stars."
"Thanks for including me," Antonio said. "Some time during our work on the movie, my mother will treat us to some lemonade. She owns the stand at the edge of Alamo Square."
"That would be great," Henry said.
"It sure would," said Violet.
Amy signaled for the children to come onto to the set. She glanced at the forms they had filled out. "These look just fine. Now I want all of you to meet the other members of the cast."
The children followed Amy over to a group of people at the edge of the set. Two men and two women were talking quietly.
"Listen up, everyone," Amy said. "I want to introduce you to our extras."
Amy introduced each child. Then the other members of the cast introduced themselves.
"I'm Claire LaBelle," said a pretty blond woman.
"Claire's the star of our film," Amy explained. "She's playing the part of the grown-up Angelina Dickinson, one of the survivors of the Alamo. Angelina was just a baby when she and her mother, Susanna, were at the Alamo. Claire is also the narrator of the movie. And this is Janice Fishman, her stand-in."
"I fill in whenever Claire's unable to do her scenes," Janice explained as she greeted the children.
"You two could almost be twins," Jessie said.
"Almost," Janice said. "Except Claire is a little bit taller."
"This is Roger Martin, our leading man," Amy said. "He's playing the part of Davy Crockett."
Henry held out his hand for a handshake. "Pleased to meet you," he said.
Roger grunted and turned away.
"Amy, I don't like children on a set," Roger said.
"You shouldn't say things like that, Roger!" Claire said. "You'll hurt their feelings."
"What about my feelings?" Roger said. Then he quickly went inside his trailer, slamming the door behind him.CHAPTER 2
Trouble on the Movie Set
I'm sorry about Roger's behavior," Claire said to the children. "This Texas heat has made him a little irritable. I'm sure you'll do a good job."
"Of course they will," said a young man with dark hair.
"This is Bob Branson," Amy said. "He's Roger Martin's stand-in. Bob's been acting since he was young."
"He sure is cute," Jessie whispered to Violet.
"Well," Amy said. "Now that everyone knows each other, let's get you kids into your costumes. Follow me to the costume tent."
"That Roger Martin seems unfriendly," Henry whispered to Jessie.
"He does," Jessie agreed. "But everyone else seems nice."
"Mary," Amy called as they neared the costume tent. "Are you in there?"
"Come on in," someone called from inside the tent.
"This is Mary Jenkins," Amy said. An older woman who was surrounded by clothes, hats, and shoes looked up from her sewing machine with a smile.
"Mary, these are our extras," Amy said as she introduced the children.
"Glad to meet you! I think I have something for everyone," Mary said as she looked through the racks of clothes that lined the wall of the tent. She quickly found long cotton dresses for the girls and shirts, pants, and hats for the boys.
"Mary keeps track of every hat, wig, shoe, and piece of clothing we use on the set," Amy explained.
"Everyone has to check costumes, wigs, jewelry, and props in and out every day," Mary said. "It's very important that you write down the time and date every time you take something. Then sign the check-out sheet by your name."
"We will," the children promised.
"When you're all dressed, we'll get started," Amy said. "Just meet me back on the set."
"Let me give you a tour," Mary said. "It will help when you come in to check out your costumes."
She showed them the collection of hats the actors used. There were hats in every shape, size, and color. Mary pulled out rack after rack of shoes and purses. Then she opened up a velvet-lined box.
"Jewels!" Violet said.
"It looks like a treasure chest," Benny said.
"They're all good fakes," Mary said, laughing. "Most of the rings are gold-plated and most of the diamonds are really just glass and rhinestones. But when the actors wear them, it's hard to tell that they're not the real thing."
"I guess that's why they call it 'movie magic,'" Henry said.
"Exactly," Mary said. "We try to make everything look as real as possible, but it's not."
"I guess we'd better get ready now," Antonio said. "I think I heard Amy telling everyone to take their places."
"The men's dressing room is on the right," Mary said. "And the women's is on the left."
In no time at all, the children were dressed in clothing similar to what was worn in the 1800s.
"You two look really pretty," Antonio said to Jessie and Violet.
"Thanks," Jessie said. "But I'm glad we don't have to wear long skirts like these anymore."
"Me, too," Violet said.
"This hat is pretty neat," Antonio said as he looked at himself in the mirror.
"I'm glad you like your costumes," Mary said. "But make sure you turn everything in as soon as you're finished for the day. Now you'd better hurry. I'm sure Amy is ready to get started."
The children thanked Mary and rushed over to the movie set.
"There you are," Amy said. "Those costumes are perfect!"
"I feel like it's Halloween time," Benny said.
"Well, you are wearing a costume," Violet agreed.
Amy handed each child a script to read. Then she carefully explained what each one would be doing in the movie.
"It will take a few minutes to set up the lights," Amy said. "Then Jessie will do her part."
"Great," Jessie said. Jessie loved her part. In the first scene, she was supposed to hand a bouquet of Texas wildflowers to the leading lady, Claire LaBelle.
"Okay, places everyone," Amy yelled. "Action!"
Claire LaBelle looked beautiful in her long dress. She smiled as Jessie handed her the flowers. Claire held them up to her nose to smell the wonderful fragrance. Then, before she could say her lines, she began to sneeze uncontrollably. She struggled to speak, but she could not stop sneezing.
"Cut! Cut! Cut!" Amy shouted. "Claire! Are you all right?"
"I don't know what happened," Claire said. "I did my part just the way you told me to. But those flowers made me sneeze."
"Let me take a look at them," Bob said quickly. Claire handed him the bouquet of flowers.
Bob checked the flowers carefully while everyone looked on.
"Do you see what I see?" Violet whispered to Henry.
"The only thing I see is some pretty flowers. What do you see?" Henry asked.
"There's ragweed in that bouquet," Violet said. "Ragweed will make you sneeze if you're allergic to it."
"Maybe you should tell Amy about it, Violet," Henry said.
"Excuse me," Violet said softly. "But there are some sprigs of ragweed in that bouquet."
"Why, she's right," Bob said. He pulled the ragweed out of the bouquet and threw it away.
"How did that get in there?" Claire asked. "Everyone knows I have severe allergies."
"I'm sorry, Claire," Amy said.
"I'd be happy to film that scene for you," Janice said. "I don't have any allergies." Janice was dressed exactly like Claire.
"Thanks, Janice," Amy said. "That's very thoughtful of you."
"I can do it," Claire wheezed. "Just give me a second to catch my breath." She took a deep breath and tried to smile. "I think I can go on now."
Janice looked disappointed.
"Now everyone back to your places," Amy said, clapping her hands.
Claire and Jessie finished filming their part without any more interruptions. At the first break, Claire strolled over to the children.
"How would you all like to have a snack with me?"
"I'd love a snack," Benny answered quickly. "I mean, we'd love to have a snack. Thank you."
"Good!" Claire said with a smile. "I've got a surprise treat I want to share with all of you. Come with me." Then Claire led them over to her trailer, which was small and cozy, just like the Aldens' boxcar.
Jessie couldn't believe it. "Benny, doesn't this trailer remind you of our boxcar?" she asked.
"Yes, but Claire's trailer has steps and our boxcar has a stump," Benny said, smiling.
"Please open up those folding chairs and have a seat," Claire said. "I'll get the surprise."
"What do you think the surprise is?" Antonio whispered.
Before anyone could answer, Claire turned around with a tray full of cookies and a pitcher of milk. Each cookie was shaped like the state of Texas.
"Oh, how cute!" Violet said. "There's a little bluebonnet on mine."
"What's a bluebonnet?" Benny asked.
"That's the state flower of Texas," Antonio said.
"Grandfather showed us some when we were walking over to the Alamo," Jessie said. "Don't you remember, Benny?"
"He was probably too busy looking at all the food stands to notice the flowers," Henry said, smiling at his little brother.
Claire poured glasses of milk and handed out napkins.
"May I take a few cookies with me?" Benny asked. "For later, I mean."
"Of course, Benny," Claire said, laughing. "Take as many as you want."
"Thank you," Benny said happily. He wrapped a few of the cookies in a napkin.
"Well," Claire said as she glanced at the clock. "I think we'd better get back to work. If we leave now, we'll be on the set in plenty of time. I hate to be late."
As soon as they reached the set, Amy called the children over to explain the next scene. A fake house front had been built especially for the movie. The front of the house was complete with a roof, windows, and several small wooden steps leading to a porch. Boxes of flowers and an old-fashioned rocker were on the porch. But if you opened the front door, there was nothing behind it but a small platform. Claire stood on the platform, waiting for Amy's cue to come through the door.
Excerpted from The Mystery at the Alamo by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1997 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.